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Windows 9 is coming – here’s what to realistically expect at today’s event




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Windows 9 is coming. Sure, Microsoft may not call it that – not today, and perhaps not ever – but whatever Microsoft announces at their “future of Windows” event today, it is the next major release of Windows, one that will stand just as tall as the Windows 8’s, 7’s, Vista’s, and XP’s before it. Despite remaining relatively secretive about the future of Windows beyond what little of a next generation Start Menu that was revealed at BUILD 2014, we know a surprising number of details about what the future of Windows will look like and how it’ll work. Let’s get started.

What to realistically expect…” is a series of posts which we use to temper expectations concerning upcoming industry events. All entries thus far have focused on Apple events, however a big new version of Windows doesn’t come along every day, so we think it’s important to take an in-depth look.

Windows 9 is not a revolution, but rather an evolution. Or maybe a devolution? That is to say, Windows 9 won’t radically change the way you use your computer – in fact, if you’ve got an old fashioned keyboard and mouse setup going on, Microsoft is actually going to actively take away most of their Windows 8 annoyances. Start screen as app launcher? Gone. Welcome back, Start Menu! Forget about that stupid Charms Bar, and don’t even think about full screen “Metro” (modern?) Windows Store applications.

Microsoft is very much working on “walking back” the Windows experience, reverting most of the controversial changes of Windows 8 and going back to the Windows 7 way of doing things, of course with more than a few updates.

Tablet users will be happy, though – or happy enough. While a lot of what Windows 9 does is going back on a few key changes of Windows 8 for desktop users, tablet users will have it another way. It’s not yet clear whether Microsoft will be delivering two separate SKUs of Windows 9, one for desktop and one for tablets, but Microsoft is very much committed to retaining the modern “Metro” environment on tablets. Expect some minor changes and refinements here, but given the relative success of the Surface Pro 3 and the onslaught of cheap Windows tablets running Intel processors, Microsoft isn’t planning on leaving the tablet market anytime soon. The real question is, of course, whether or not Windows 9’s minor tablet improvements will be enough to convince users to look at Windows devices instead of iPads or Android devices.

There’s a refined Desktop experience coming, at last! Windows 8 came with virtually no changes on the Desktop front, but given 9’s renewed focus on the Desktop things are finally going to get interesting again. Expect a new visual style (Microsoft has already been seen to be working on a new one, with smaller Windows chrome and an invisible task bar), new Desktop icons, tweaks to many of the built in applications, and more.

One of the big new pro-features has to be, at long last, the inclusion of virtual desktops. While Linux and Mac OS X has had this for years, Microsoft will finally allow you to work with more than one virtual desktop at a time, with each desktop housing different running applications and windows. This sort of functionality has already been proven extraordinarily useful on other platforms, and Microsoft diehards will be in for a treat once they get to use this great organizational tool for the first time.

Cortana, now helping you (and the Chief) across more devicesWhile Google Now and Siri have both been available on each’s respective tablet platform for quite some time now, Windows tablet users have thus far been left in the dust when it comes to voice assistance software. Cortana arrived to many Windows Phone devices earlier this year alongside Windows Phone 8.1, but anybody running Windows 8.1 has been left out until now. According to some recent big rumors, however, Microsoft will finally be implementing Cortana into every device running Windows 9, including even desktops.

Internet Explorer 12 is coming, and it’s going to be big. And exciting. We don’t know much about this one yet, but we do know that it’s coming. Internet Explorer 12 is slated to ship alongside Windows 9 and will be a huge, massive upgrade – likely in both the UX, UI, but also in terms of functionality. Microsoft hopes that a more rapid development cycle will allow Internet Explorer to better keep up with ever evolving web standards. That means no longer will Internet Explorer be a second class citizen to the likes of Chrome and Firefox – instead, Microsoft seems to be committed to bringing some huge improvements to Windows’s built in web browser.

Of course, most of this is heresy – there’s no saying when exactly any of this will arrive, nor is there any indication that any or all of this will be available to play with in the Windows Enterprise Technical Preview, which will likely be available to download later this week. Still, this is shaping up to be an exciting time for Windows users, and that can only mean good things for a platform that has remained so stagnant and – let’s be honest here – unappealing to many for so long. Long live Windows 9, hasta la vista, Windows 8.